The present standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam (located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan) has highlighted India’s very special relationship with Bhutan, including military responsibilities.
In June 2017 Chinese Army (People’s Liberation Army) construction party had entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road. Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) patrol had attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity. Later Bhutan underlinined that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affected the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries. Since these developments, India and Bhutan have been in continuous contact, giving a view of India’s role in Bhutan’s security and matters of mutual interest.
India’s defence commitment to Bhutan
Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, both countries have agreed to cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. It provides that, neither Government will allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.
Under the previous treaty, India was to guide Bhutan on foreign and defence policies. The 2007 treaty is meant to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty. In reality, it gives India virtual responsibility to protect Bhutan from the kind of external threat including threat from Chinese military.
Moreover, the Eastern Army Command and the Eastern Air Command of India have integrated protection of Bhutan into their role. The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT), headed by a Major General also plays a critical role in training Bhutanese security personnel.